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The world over, the Church of God is beset with so many challenges ranging from their handling of moral issues and Church rules to teachings and interpretations of Biblical verses. There are no known set of rules universally adopted and acceptable to Christians. Each Church interprets the Word according to their sentiments. Today, so many Christians would rather believe the word of their pastors than strive to know what the Bible says. Can we say gone are the days of Berean Christians? Rev. Gboyega Adejobi, setman of Lifeline Bible Church, Agege Lagos Nigeria responds to some of these issues that have torn so many people apart. Some of the things that differentiate Adejobi from other preachers are his ability to communicate effectively while preaching, lucid interpretation of biblical verses and the gift to bring the verse down to everyday life and use. Every Sunday service is like a seminar where you learn new things. He speaks on how the church could handle adultery, divorce, deliverance, even politicians and power brokers in the church. This is an excerpt from a forth coming book by Bola Adewara CONVERSATION ON FAITH IN TIMES LIKE THIS.
When a man/woman in the church is caught in adultery or a misbehaviour that the church frowns at, what are the corrective steps the church must take to discipline him in such a way that he would comply, not leave the church and backslide?
A Christian who falls into sin is like a sick person who should be treated with love and care till he/she recovers and is reintegrated back to church. The first challenge here is that church discipline can rarely be carried out secretly without the knowledge of the people or else, rumours will fly depending on the visibility of the person involved. That is why some people think it is not done in love but really, church discipline demonstrates our love and willingness to restore the offender as well as openness and mutual accountability to one another in church. The purpose of church discipline is to help offenders develop godly sorrow and be truly remorseful and repentant in order to be restored back to fellowship with God and the brethren (2Corinthians 7: 10). Though usually seen as shameful, its shame is far better than sweeping the sin under the carpet only to be condemned by God later. Details of the whole exercise may differ from church to church but such details must be well laid out and known to members from the onset so nobody sees church leaders as being partial or making a scapegoat of the offender. Another challenge is that usually, the level of exposure of the person involved is a factor. Is the offender an ordinary member, a church worker or leader? There are different corrective measures for each of them and those who don’t know this may erroneously assume partiality here. For example, while you may overlook a child of 3 playing rice and beans with sand wearing only pant, it is seen as madness if a man of 30 does the same thing. Get it? So, there is no problem at all with church discipline if it is carried out in love and without prejudice or partiality although, the proliferation of churches these days doesn’t seem to help matters as there are now too many desperate pastors who don’t discipline errant church members for fear of losing them or carry out background checks to find out why their new members left their former church in the first place. So, ignorance, fear of shame and pride in my opinion are some of the reasons why many men and women caught in adultery or any misdemeanour at all leave their church or even backslide; it is usually to avoid the reproach of church discipline and not because it is not done in love in most of the cases. But wasn’t their sin or misdemeanour reproachful or shameful in the first place? Remember that Judas Iscariot after betraying Christ preferred to commit suicide rather than returning to the rest of the fold to confess his sin and seek God’s forgiveness. That is still the problem.
At what level of family crisis should a wife or husband bring their matters to the church or notify the pastors?
A husband or wife should quickly seek the pastor’s help once it is clear that the two of them can no longer manage their affairs privately and the marriage is about to break down completely or when either of the parties concerned is becoming violent or physically abusive.
The issue of divorce is important here because of the incessant physical abuse resulting in death as we see almost daily. How do you treat the issue of physical abuse? If a woman wants to get out on account of physical abuse, how do you treat that?
Whichever way we may look at it, the Bible does not support divorce (Mal.2: 13-16; Matt.19: 6); that is why you will clearly see that although churches conduct weddings; no church has ever conducted a divorce service. Divorce is only carried out in the court of law! But back to your question: A couple may separate temporarily if one of them is getting violent until he or she calms down and normal relation is restored. This period of temporary separation may span days, weeks, months or even years as the case may be. For example, in the story of Jacob and Esau, it took a whole 20 years before Esau’s anger, bitterness and threat to kill his brother Jacob subsided but eventually, he forgave him and the two of them reconciled. The challenge here is that many of us are too inpatient, always looking for quick fixes and not willing to wait at all. That is the problem! All marriages can work if we can all patiently wait on God and trust Him. Another problem is the third party problem. I believe no woman has injured or harmed her husband or family as much as Eve did in the Garden of Eden. We are all still suffering till date on account of her disobedience and sin but why didn’t Adam divorce her? If he did, who else would he marry? Most people who divorce already have their eyes on someone else outside their marriage – big problem! If there is no other man or woman out there to marry, every couple will resolve their misunderstandings eventually!
A man finds out that his wife who claims to be single as at the time he married her was once married to another man and has a child hidden somewhere. A woman discovers that her husband who claims to have a BSc, MSc, PhD from Ife is a bloody school cert holder who married her because of her father’s money. When a partner in marriage discovers that all the other partner said during courtship were lies and that the foundation of the marriage was built on falsehood, is that marriage valid or stands nullified?
Answer: I believe my answer to your last question already partially answered this one also but additionally, the Bible says, “…love covers a multitude of sins” (1Peter 4: 8) and the only unpardonable sin as far as the Bible is concerned is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12: 31-32). So, all these offences are still pardonable especially where the offender is genuinely remorseful and repentant. After all, we have all lied at one time or the other before (Romans 3: 23). However, let all the young ones who are still single and yet to marry learn from those who have gone ahead and fallen into all kinds of deep pits; let them patiently seek the face of God in prayer and not merely rush into marriage. Those who rush into marriage will always rush out of it. At the end of the day, a broken courtship is far better than a broken marriage!
So many pastors are quick to recommend deliverance for church members at the slightest challenge brought to them. So many people have gone for the deliverance and still remain where they are. What do you think of these deliverance as done in Nigeria? Do you conduct deliverance? What manner of challenges would you recommend for deliverance?
Not all problems are spiritual. Some problems are physical, socio-economic, emotional, psychological or even medical in nature but, illiteracy and ignorance is still a major problem in Africa. Unfortunately, widespread unemployment has provided a good opportunity for hungry charlatans to capitalize on the problems of the people to spiritually abuse and exploit them. Whatever means is adopted, if the problem persists then, the minister is ineffective. I sometimes conduct deliverance prayers for people but strictly by the leading of the Holy Spirit when it is clearly perceived that a problem has its roots in demonic activities in a person’s life beyond what can be seen on the surface. It is part of our Biblical mandate as clearly stated in Mark 16: 15-18
Succession plan as a minister of God, as stated in the new law guiding operation of Charity organisations like the church. How do you react to this?
There is no doubt that we need some oversight functions or monitoring of church work as religious activities are being grossly abused now but there is also need for caution as those in government or the regulatory bodies themselves are human and may out of overzealousness do a lot of damage if care is not taken. So, we need to strike a delicate balance here. I believe the intention is good but the content of the law must be re-examined, improved upon and well defined to achieve its objective. The government will have to collaborate with established umbrella bodies like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) in order to get it right.
Someone said to become a specialist in a profession, one goes to school to learn it. A doctor goes to medical school, lawyer goes to law school, etc. They contend that pastors should go to Seminary before becoming a minister. How appropriate is this?
It is good and complementary if a pastor attends a Bible School or Seminary but it not compulsory because pastoral calling is primarily spiritual in nature and like the Bible puts it in 1Corinthians 2: 14, spiritual things “are spiritually discerned.” However, especially in this age and time, a pastor should be well lettered and be given to study (2Timothy 2: 15) but that doesn’t mean that God can’t still call or use an illiterate especially in reaching out to fellow illiterates. To every rule there are always exceptions, a person may be well read generally and theologically but still be spiritually dead or blind like the Pharisees (Matthew 23: 16 & 24), and a person may be an illiterate (like fisherman Simon Peter) and yet be spiritually awakened. It is the Holy Spirit that quickens or gives life, not a Bible School or Seminary (John 6: 63; 2Corinthians 3: 5-6). A baby must have life first before you can ever nurture him. Put it this way, if you wash a pig, towel a pig, grease and powder a pig, a pig will still remain a pig. The best though is when a pastor is well read generally, theologically and is spiritually sound.
How can men of God relate with politicians or powerful men in the church without compromising their messages?
God wants us generally as Christians to pray for our leaders including those in government and business world (1Timothy 2: 1-4). Men of God in particular should serve as watchmen for the society to warn and correct political and business leaders if and when they go wrong. So, it should be clear that we cannot effectively play this role by being subservient to politicians or men of means. We must therefore be men of integrity and not be covetous. We must practice godliness with contentment as prescribed in scripture (1Timothy 6: 6-10; Hebrews 13: 5) in order not to compromise our message or become unnecessarily apologetic as preachers or pastors.